Housecleaner fills a jar with change, employer takes it away. What's the name of this short story?
July 14, 2007 10:16 AM   Subscribe

Help me remember the name of this short story (or novel that includes this story): A housecleaner's employer tells her she can keep all the change she finds when she cleans his office. She ends up with a jar of change containing more than one hundred dollars, and the employer reneges his offer. Thanks!

It's by a contemporary female author- Alice Munro, Amy Hempel, Ellen Gilchrist, or someone similar. I heard it read on the radio- I think on This American Life, but I'm not finding it in my searches.

In the story, the housecleaner watches the employer take the change and roll it all up, only to take it to the bank and be told they don't take rolled change (or they reject him for some reason). She knows he'll never bother to do what is required to cash in the change, that the money will be wasted. In the end she gives a moving talk to her kid (or some kid) explaining how they are so much better off than the employer.

I may have some of the details wrong, and of course it is written infinitely better than I am explaining here.

posted by jiiota to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's by Mona Simpson. I think the story is called "Dependents."
posted by 4Lnqvv at 11:28 AM on July 14, 2007

This storyline appears in the movie "Spanglish" with Adam Sandler.
posted by santojulieta at 12:12 PM on July 14, 2007

4Lnqvv, you rock! Thanks!

Based on your information I was able to find this reading. If you have twenty minutes and you're into short fiction, it's worth it. (I link 30 seconds in to skip the headache-inducing introduction.)

Julieta, I thought of that too as I was watching the video just now. In Spanglish, Adam Sandler offers something like $1 for each of a certain kind of stone that the kids can find on the beach- he wants to use the stones in a countertop or something. The rest of the kids- his own kids- find something like three stones each and then run off to find something more amusing to do. But the housekeeper's daughter takes the whole thing very seriously and returns with an entire bucket of stones. He actually pays up- several hundred dollars. This sparks an argument with the girls mother just as he's about to bite into the world's greatest sandwich. The storyline is similar enough that I can't help wondering if James Brooks borrowed it from Mona Simpson.
posted by jiiota at 12:38 PM on July 14, 2007

Thanks for linking to that reading, jiota. I really enjoyed it.
posted by hot soup girl at 2:29 PM on July 14, 2007

I can't help wondering if James Brooks borrowed it from Mona Simpson.

Wouldn't surprise me if he did. Her husband used to write/produce on one of Brooks' little side projects.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 4:24 PM on July 14, 2007

My pleasure, hot soup girl- I was grateful to have found it too.

Nakedcodemonkey: regarding the small world that we live in- wow, I had no idea. And it's funny- while I was googling this story all I was coming up with were various pages about the Simpsons (Homer, et al.) and I thought I was so far off the mark.
posted by jiiota at 5:29 PM on July 14, 2007

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